Archive | April 2014

Playoff hockey, rude fans, and the plight of the Canadian

I’ve always wanted to be a sports writer. It just seems like such a chill job to write about shit that doesn’t matter. And judging from a certain four-letter monopoly that rhymes with ESPN, you don’t really even have to know anything to succeed. All that is required is an extreme opinion and the fanatics will read, watch and listen, whether they love you or want you dead.

I could never do it though. The moment that I actually have to write something always seems to correlate perfectly with when I don’t want to write something.

But it’s time for playoff hockey and I just can’t contain my excitement. The first round begins Wednesday, and I want to prognosticate, whether you like it or not or couldn’t care less.

Atlantic division

(4) Detroit vs (1) Boston – This one may go seven games with as well as Detroit has been playing, but even if it does, the Bruins are just too good at home. The series clinching goal will come off of Brad Marchand’s nose.

(2) Tampa Bay vs (3) Montreal – Tampa in 6. Carey Price won gold with Team Canada, but he’s not good enough to carry a team that was 10th from the bottom in the league in scoring this year.

By the way, how messed up is it that a Canadian team has not won a Stanley Cup since 1993? That’s 20 seasons. Currently 7 of 30 NHL franchises (23%) are located in Canada (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto). In 1993, when the Quebec Nordiques were still around, 8 of the then 24 NHL teams played north of the border (33%). If you were to put the names of each team in a hat for each season since 1993, and pick one team randomly from each hat, the likelihood of not picking a single Canadian team after choosing from all 20 hats is only 0.3% (0.75^20, assuming about 75% of teams in a given season are American). What could be the cause of this anomaly? In order to maintain a competitive balance, the current NHL CBA mandates a minimum team salary expenditure of somewhere around 70% of the salary cap. Between 1998-2008, when payrolls were less regulated, Canadian teams still spent similarly to their American counterparts. The revenue and spending have been there. Why do the gods hate Canada so much?

Metropolitan division

(4) Columbus vs (1) Pittsburgh – Marc-Andre Fleury is probably playing for his future in Pittsburgh. I don’t know what a sports psychologist does, but I sure hope it worked. MAF blames his recent playoff struggles on the fact that he worries about pleasing everyone, which does not allow him to shrug off poor performances. Weird. If he wants to please Pens fans, he could just shrug off the poor performances.

(2) New York Rangers vs (3) Philly dicks – To the insufferable Flyers fans that continue to chant “Crosby sucks“, and those who are frankly just too mean for my liking, I wish the worst in everything that happens to you, including watching your team not win the cup…again and forever. To the friendlier Flyer fans, my condolences for the first-round exit. Rangers in six, but only if Lundqvist has a stroke. Otherwise its a sweep and Philly leaves the ice like the Soviets did when the Flyers were a real hockey team.

Pacific division

(4) Dallas vs (1) Anaheim – I really want to pick Dallas for the big upset, but Anaheim is just so offensively skilled with Getzlaf and Perry and a ton of depth. Bruce Boudreau uses excessive profanity to keep his boys focused and Anaheim takes it in six.

(2) San Jose vs (3) LA Kings – San Jose in five. I have a hunch about them this year. I have a hunch about them every year.

Central division

(4) Minnesota vs (1) Colorado – I love the awesomely skilled Colorado Avalanche and this is exactly the type of team that disappoints in the playoffs. Wild in six.

(2) St Louis vs (3) Chicago – What happened to the Blues? They were so good until recently. What could have changed such a great squad so dramatically? Could it have been the ridiculous trade for Ryan Miller?? They deserve the beat down they’re about to get. Hawks in five.

So yeah, there it is. If I’m not too ashamed, I’ll come back for more when round 2 is set.

And lastly, but most importantly, never forget that even though there are a lot of beavers in Canada, this is NOT the time of the season to be eating wood.

M

 

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A Game of Thrones and why it probably sucks to be a woman

If you are sensitive to a few Game of Thrones teasers, perhaps you ought to get back to playing candy crush.

That was a bit mean, sorry.  I’ve been moody since the malaria.  A lot of my favorite people seem to very much enjoy that game and for that reason I shouldn’t bash too hard.

I just find it stupid and excessively dependent on fortune, only for you to proceed to some unattainable destiny because new levels JUST KEEP GETTING CREATED out of thin god damn air.  When you lose, you are forced to wait 30 minutes before returning to play.  King Games is quite clever in manipulating you to crave it even more when that happens.  And if you can’t handle the delay, you simply buy back in at a nominal cost and contribute to the game’s $850,000 a day revenue.  That’s a lot of money, considering it’s merely a shameless knock-off of Bejeweled.

But a true guilty pleasure of mine returned on Sunday when Game of Thrones FINALLY began its fourth season.

The show and its written counterpart, A Song of Ice and Fire, have only been a part of my life for little over a year, but since being drawn in by the hot sibling incest and attempted child murder, I’ve fervently caught myself up in both the television series and the book.  Unlike candy crush, it’s one of the few pop culture fads that I enjoy.

As the wars and betrayals continue to unfold, there has been increasing chatter that the pace of GOT may soon overtake ASOIAF, as George Martin works to complete the final two installments of the book series.  Five novels have been published to date, with the third season of GOT ending somewhere near the middle of the third book.  The upcoming season should cover the entire second half of book 3, while books 4 & 5 likely will correspond with seasons 5 & 6.  Consider the pace that he’s released the first five novels (he started writing ASOIAF in 1991) and see that George might soon be feeling some pressure.

Perhaps each character’s fate is already determined and only the finer details must needs be edged out (book joke, not a typo).  Or, maybe Martin is struggling to put the pieces together, as things do get complicated with new characters down the road. Regardless, he has no more than two years to finish The Winds of Winter, and at most, another two to publish A Dream of Spring.

George has got some shit to do and he might be running out of time.

Not only in the matter of HBO overtaking the novel, but also in the sense that life is short, especially when you are 65 and not the most spry dude.  Not that I’m saying it’s time to add him to your celebrity death pool just yet.  I just really want to see those final two books come entirely from his wonderfully sick mind.

Pessimism aside, I am eager for more Lannister lasciviousness and Targaryen swagger.  This should be the best season.  We are at a climactic point in the plot (and I cannot wait to see Tyrion finally lose his shit).

But there was this one conversation at lunch the other day that I’ve been ruminating over.

It began when someone expressed a discomfort with the show because of the portrayed lack of respect for women.  Not a year ago I had the same discussion with another colleague who shared a similar opinion.  Each time I shrugged it off and moved on.

It was my notion that since the sexual violence toward female characters was not overtly glorified, the more graphic scenes were necessary to establish an understanding of the ethics of this fictional land and time (which I suppose resembles Iron Age Europe with a dash of sorcery).

As an example from the plot, one of the show’s heroines, Daenerys Targaryen, is forcibly wed to Khal Drogo, a scary dude of the nomadic (and barbaric) Dothraki people.  On the night of the wedding, the marriage is consummated with what is shown on HBO to be a pretty rapey affair (although Martin depicted this scene in A Game of Thrones as more consensual).  While this particular indiscretion falls on HBO, Martin is not entirely free from guilt when it comes to portraying women as accessories to men in his novel.

And while I think certain interpretations of feminism truly are insane, there is something to be said for empathy and understanding of the condition of modern womanhood.  In a world where it’s the men waging wars, assaulting, raping, murdering and dominating the prison population, life as a woman must be frightening at times.

And that’s something that I’m going to consider the next time I witness an objection to the portrayal of women in entertainment.

But in Game of Thrones, Daenerys eventually transforms into a badass dragon princess and emancipator of slaves.  While there are in fact weak female roles that may conjure up feelings of resentment in viewers, George Martin and Emilia Clarke should at least be proud of the courageous strength and pure awesomeness embodied by one Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons.

M